Top 5 Costliest Health Issues Retirees Face

If, in your working years, you’ve had to scramble to buy health insurance or cope with rising co-pays on employer insurance, it’s tempting to think you’ll be home free once you reach 65 and sign up for Medicare. And yes Medicare does have significant benefits: About 80% of doctor-visit and testing costs are covered, as are most hospital costs, and you can even get partial payment for that long-needed mental-health therapy.

But contrary to wishful thinking, Medicare is far from free and has significant gaps in coverage. Health expenses paid out-of-pocket by individuals rise steeply with age, even after Medicare kicks in. While people aged 45-64 spent an average of $8370 for healthcare in 2010, that figure rose to $15,857 a year for those 65 to 84, and to almost $35,000 per person for those 85 years and older.

Ironically, taking good care of yourself and staying healthy can add more, not less, to the total healthcare costs of your retirement years. That’s because many the out-of-pocket expenses are annual premium costs, and living longer means you’ll be paying them longer. Sorry about that.

Here are the top 5 costliest health care expenses that retirees experience, with suggestions about what to do cover them.

“Hidden” Premiums

Medicare premiums are deducted from your Social Security check each month, and because they don’t arrive as a bill, it’s easy to forget you’re paying them. Medicare Part A, for hospital costs, has no premium for people who have worked and their spouses because it’s prepaid through payroll taxes during the working years. If you didn’t work and pay FICA taxes for at least 40 quarters, the premium is $411 a month.

But for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor visits, tests, ambulance rides and supplies, enrollees pay a monthly premium that is currently $104.90 a month, with surcharges for those with incomes over $85,000 a year. Over the retirement years, these premiums cost at least $1,258.80 a year for an individual. Combined with premiums for drug insurance and possibly supplemental or gap insurance to pay the portions of the bills that Medicare doesn’t cover, premiums can take a big bite out of retirement income.

Co-pays and Other Medicare Expenses

Premium costs are only the start of the bills Medicare recipients need to pay. Deductibles and co-pays are also significant. For Medicare Part B the annual deductible rose from $147 a year in 2015 to $166 in 2016. And there’s a $1,288 deductible for a hospital stay. And then there’s meeting the portion of any medical or hospital bills that Medicare doesn’t cover. On average, people aged 65-84 paid $5,887 a year in hospital co-pays and $3,281 a year for physician and clinical services in 2010. For those 85 and older, the costs were $10,405 for hospital co-pays and $4,342 for physician and clinical services.

There are two common strategies for meeting the costs that Medicare only partially covers. One is to join a Medicare Advantage Plan, often an HMO or PPO plan, that covers most Medicare services, and often includes drug insurance as well. The trade-off is that you need to use only the doctors who are part of the HMO or PPO plan, although some plans will cover part of the fee for seeing out-of-plan doctors.

Another strategy is to purchase supplemental or “gap” insurance from a private company. The highest premium plans will cover all Medicare copays and deductibles, with decreasing percentages for lower premium plans. Prescription drugs are not included in these plans. Neither are any expenses (such as dental costs) that Medicare itself doesn’t cover. Premiums average $186 per month and $2,232 annually for an individual. Both Medicare Advantage Plans and Medigap policies can help make medical costs in retirement more predictable. (See Medigap Vs. Medicare Advantage Plans: Which Is Better?)

Drug Insurance and Co-pays

If you don’t join a Medicare Advantage Plan, neither regular Medicare nor a Medigap policy will cover your costs for prescription drugs. Drug insurance, or Part D of Medicare, also has premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, and while buying it at retirement is not compulsory, you pay a penalty for the months you went bare if you decide to get it later. Out-of-pocket drugs costs averaged $1866 for those 64-84 in 2010, and $1935 for those 85 and older.

You can arrange to get your Part D premiums deducted from your Social Security check, but be prepared to use other strategies as well to keep drug costs down. Asking your doctor for generic or inexpensively priced drugs is important, and you may find that buying generics at Walmart, Costco or Target or through Walgreen’s prescription savings club costs you less than paying the co-pays required by your drug insurance.

Eyes, Ears, and Teeth

While Medicare covers most of your body, some parts are left nearly bare. If you need a cataract operation, Medicare will cover a portion of the expense and even allow you a free pair of post-op prescription glasses. But it doesn’t pay for routine eye exams, eyeglass prescriptions, or other visual aids. Neither will Medicare pay for hearing exams or hearing aids.

And if you’re hospitalized because your jaw and teeth are broken in a car accident, Medicare’s got your back, but it does not cover routine dental care, caps, bridges, or other procedures. People between 65 and 84 years old can expect dental services to cost them about $377 a year, and it’s one of the few expenses that declines with age, costing those 85 an older just $341 a year on average in 2010.

Nursing Care

Most of us associate the term “long term care” with nursing-home admission, but we need to think more broadly about how we will be cared for if illness makes us temporarily or permanently unable to take care of ourselves. All of the choices are expensive, including being cared for by family members and friends, who may have to give up paid employment to assist you. For example, lost wages and benefits for women caregivers can total $342,000, not to mention their increasing risk of heart disease and depression.

Costs for home health care, adult day care, assisted living and nursing home residence are substantial – and are best covered by either purchasing long term care insurance or setting up a dedicated investment account for that purpose.

The Bottom Line

Even though it costs more to live longer, staying healthy so you can do the things you enjoy is still the best retirement option. Budgeting for retirement should include a hard look at projected health expenses. Overall, retirees can expect Medicare to cover about 62% of their annual healthcare expenses. About 32% of out-of-pocket costs will be for Medicare part B and part D premiums; 45% on Medicare deductibles, co-pays and cost sharing; and 23% on drug expenses.

Note: The costs cited in this article are average, and there is little way of knowing in advance what your costs or longevity will be. Calculators from HealthView and from AARP can give a more personalized estimate that takes into account your current health conditions.

Read more: Top 5 Costliest Health Issues Retirees Face | Investopedia
Follow us: Investopedia on Facebook

I’m still working, and you’re retired–can we still be friends?

By Ronni Sandroff | Jan. 2012  | Next Avenue

Yes, I’m still working. By choice? Partly. By necessity? Partly. To show off? Uh, maybe mostly.
This latter motivation has been fanned of late by the attitude of my age mates, and even those 10 years younger, who complain that my job is interfering with their social routines. Sorry, but no, I can’t join you for daytime classes at the Y, a Wednesday matinee or discount lunch at Bouley during restaurant week. And I certainly can’t drop everything to grab that cheap airfare to Ecuador.
It feels odd to have to defend doing honest labor to those who seem to take pride in being at loose ends. Either it’s a smug email like: “Ho ho ho, it’s really warm in Florida today, and I see it’s snowing up your way, poor dear.” Or patronizing: “I remember working. Such a drain on your energy.” Or “Wow, you look corporate in that outfit. Is that the new work uniform?” (Sorry, I didn’t have time to change into my jeans before meeting you for dinner). They seem to resent the sense of self-importance that comes with having deadlines, meetings, stretch assignments and the wardrobe to handle them in. Does the only fun they’re having in retirement involve wearing sweat pants and scoffing at me and others who go to the office every day?
It reminds me of my experiences as a working mother in the 1980s, when the stay-home moms treated me with a similar mix of hostility and competition. I resented them right back for thinking they had a monopoly on doing motherhood right. Until that is, I made local friends on both sides of the divide and found we had a lot to offer each other — not the least of which was a different perspective.
The bright side of being teased for still working is that it’s made me think hard about the view from each side of the fence. Here’s my short list of things both retired and working people need in their lives.
Less time to fret. An advantage of spending 40-odd hours knuckling down in the office is that I don’t have endless time to think about my troubles, my possible future troubles, or what I should’ve or could’ve done about the troubles of yesteryear. And I don’t have much time to listen to other people’s tales of major and minor pains, ungrateful children and miscellaneous inconveniences and outrages. Is it just me, or do others dread these heart-to-hearts? At work, we tend to chat each other up about the latest gadget, movie or political scandal. It’s not that working people don’t have minor and major aches and pains. We just don’t mention them so much. Retired or not, we all need major distractions from ourselves and conversation that at least sometimes rises above the minutiae of our daily lives.

Bragging rights. One of the great benefits of working, I find, is the nod of respect I get when I tell people what I do. I’ve watched a number of friends bravely retire precious identities as Expert Pooh Bah or Owner-in-Chief, only to find their self-esteem collapsing when someone asks them what they do for a living. “Mostly errands,” might be their answer. Or a really long tale about what they used to do and how they wouldn’t mind doing a little bit of it now, either, if you happened to know of anyone who needs a professional who hasn’t worked in five years. My conclusion is that working or not everyone needs to write themselves a new “elevator line” every so often — a two-sentence upbeat response to the inevitable question: “What’s new and interesting with you?”

Time with family and friends. Here’s where my mixed feelings about retirement come into play. Yes, I would like to emulate a friend who takes her granddaughter to toddler art class twice a week, or the one who never has to jump off the phone with his elderly parents, saying, “I’m late for a meeting.” Many of my retired friends seem to get this right, so I’ve taken inspiration from them. In recent years I’ve been booking my evenings and weekends less tightly so I can more often say yes to spontaneous visits or last-minute requests for help from family and friends.

Energy for growth. My retired friends really soar when they’re learning something new. They get engrossed for days decoding the latest electronic device or return revved up from classes in ballroom dancing, oil painting or infant CPR. And when they’re in that mode, any residual jealousy about my job vanishes in the delight with their own lives. Inspired by this, I took my first class this fall — an eight-week online university course (paid for by my company, thank you very much) — and was quite amazed at how exhilarating, and difficult, it was. To make the best use of free time, one needs to devote as much ingenuity and attention to it as one would to one’s job,” according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmiha, author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” This makes me feel that retirement, and the need to create the best use of all my time, might be challenging enough to suit me when I let go of my job. Some day.Retired or not, we need to remember that many of us are still on a life journey to become more interested and interesting. So perhaps we can make a deal. If you promise not to be smug because you’re retired, I’ll try not to be smug about still working.

A Quick Cure for the Pessimism Pandemic

By Ronni Sandroff | Feb. 2012  | Next Avenue

Turning lemons into lemonade? Here’s an actual recipe

Are we doomed yet? This is kind of a daunting year. The omens are bad, according to the ancient Mayans, as interpreted by contemporary prophets of calamity. Even good ole Chevrolet dramatized the apocalypse, complete with frogs falling from the sky, in its 2012 Super Bowl commercial.
The evening news only reinforces the general sense of foreboding. The Euro is collapsing. War with Iran is looming. The U.S., real estate market, is in a quagmire. “And it’s going to get worse,” you can count on a pundit to intone.
Suddenly, pessimism is cool. So what does a gal who thrives on positivism and a go-go economy do now? I’ve had to give it a lot of thought because my usual ways of coping seem a bit dated. Remember when being perky was in? I was good at that. I have a gift for spotting the silver linings in the storm clouds, but lately, I’ve found that pointing them out makes people act like I’m deluded.
Some seem to thrive on the new negativism. “Frustration, anger, sadness, and loneliness. That’s, to me, inspiration for lyrics,“ the pop star Pink said in an interview. “Happiness? Useless. If I’m happy I don’t get out of bed — there’s no point.”
Well, I’m just the opposite. If I can ratchet myself up to even slightly positive on the emotion meter, then I’m up and at ’em, rah-rah, ready to devour the world.(More: Think Positive, Be Happier: The Invaluable Lessons of ‘Pollyanna’)

Pink is not my role model in any case (and why isn’t her name Blue?), but she seems to embrace a flawed coping technique — namely, to convince yourself that you prefer negative scenarios and outcomes. The flaw is this: If you believe that you thrive on negativity, you will breed more of it.I agree with Charlotte Bronte, who said that cheerfulness “is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.” Yes, if the state within is positive, I have more energy and power to put toward fixing the bad situations I too often find myself in.

The big question is, how do you stay upbeat in a year when it’s hip to be a cynical and defeated? To cheer up the world, I’ve devised a step-by-step recipe for turning this lemon of a year into a refreshing and inspiring gulp of optimism. Call it lemonade, circa 2012.

Step 1: Count your lemons. Count ’em up quick. Don’t worry about leaving any out. Then say: “Ah, I certainly have a bumper of crop of lemons. I can relax now; I’ve already counted them.”(More: Why Today Is Better Than the Past)

Step 2: Squeeze. Sour as they taste, lemons contain a lot of nutrients. So, too, do those fabulous moments of life — they offer great opportunities for learning and growth, along with some purely pleasurable experiences. Put those in your juicer too, and squeeze the most joy out of every wonderful non-apocalyptic moment of this wobbly year.
Step 3: Add sugar and water. Be extravagant with the sugar. This kind has no calories and comes in the form of smiles, small words of encouragement and the odd joke. To dilute the power of the lemons, add a generous splash of that ordinary miracle, fresh water.
Step 4: Keep stirring. Praise yourself for stirring up some optimism. Go on, no one will know. And share the wealth: Offer a little lemonade to whoever’s around. Salud!
Interview: Artist Chuck Close Decodes His Compelling Portraits

Interview: Artist Chuck Close Decodes His Compelling Portraits

By Ronni Sandroff | Mar. 2016  |

The faces, looming larger-than-life, often staring straight at you, are unguardedly and unglamorously human. They seem so real that you can sense the rumble of the person’s thoughts. Yes, the paintings and photographs of renowned New York artist Chuck Close, 76, can take some getting used to. When you view a photograph, it’s as if you’re staring deep into a person that you suddenly know all too well.

Close has photographed, painted, woven, and imaginatively reinterpreted many times, a core set of almost wall-size portraits. The colorful pixelated painting versions are the most ravishing – and yield a series of different visions as you walk toward and away from them. But though Close can border on the abstract, the strong gaze of his subjects bores through. The subjects (including himself) have almost blank expressions and don’t overtly show emotion. They seem unposed, and somehow objective.

At the March 4 PAMM Art of the Party gala in Miami, which honored the artist, Close answered a few questions for L’Etage Magazine that I’ve long wondered about.

When you’re doing a portrait, do you consciously try not to “editorialize” about the person who is the subject of your work?

Chuck Close: I try to be rather neutral and flat-footed, but I’m sure there’s some editorial work in there somewhere. I don’t flatter anybody, but I also don’t try to make them look worse.  No matter how much they hate it when I do it, ten or 15 years later they think they look pretty good.

Even in your portraits of well-known people, such as Kate Moss and Justin Timberlake, we see an unfamiliar side of them. How do you work with models to achieve this?

Chuck Close:  I don’t let them put on makeup, and I don’t do photoshop. There’s something kind of wonderful about people before they try to improve themselves. There’s a certain kind of honesty to it. When I apologized to Kate Moss, she said: “oh its ok I’ve had a million pretty photos taken.” (Laughs)

You’ve said your favorite painter is Johannes Vermeer. His faces also often have enigmatic expressions. Can you talk about how he has influenced you?

Chuck Close – I think I can figure out how any painting in the history of the world was made except for Vermeer’s. (His paintings) are like an apparition. Just magical. It’s the fact that they’re so special that impresses me. I never care about the story. I’m a formalist. I don’t care who the letter (in Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter”) is from. It’s like he paints blue on the canvas in a divine breath.

Off the Wall Art at Art Boca Raton

Off the Wall Art at Art Boca Raton

By Ronni Sandroff | Mar. 2016  |

Some of my favorite pieces in the 42 galleries exhibiting at the first annual Art Boca Raton were both on and off the wall, which produced a dynamic energy.  Among the most striking was Helen Lopez “Alone in My Little World, 2015” in which a tree branch breaks out of a wall and is hung with a beautifully textured collage. Lopez is identified as a student, which also took breath away.

The wall sculpture artists at the show used an eclectic array of materials, and many pieces hang enough off the wall that their shadows become part of the art. Slip Casted porcelain was used by Natalia Arbelaez to form five expressive human heads, in “Insignificant Grandeur (self-supporting heads). “Tooling Around” a 21 x 57 mixed media by Elayna Toby Singer, is made mostly of metal. And Maximilano Pecce’s exuberant motorcycle, “On My Way” is made of melted plastic. Painted laser cut steel forms Tom Wesselmann’s “Steel Drawing-Sitting Nude” 1986-87. It does have the fluidity of a drawing with a beckoning touch of dimensionality.

Moving from off the wall to on the table, Sam Tufnell’s beautiful “Wynwood Resurrection” 2016 is made of cast resin with lighted pedestal included. And, I was delighted by Alfredo Sosabraovo’s colorful and comic Murano glass sculpture, and even more amused when I saw the title: “Bureaucrat.” I especially liked the birds perched on the bureaucrat’s skull.

There are also plenty of interesting paintings to see, including a large showing of Russian Boris Alexandrovich Chetov’s (1926-2010) easy to take expressionism, cubism, and abstractions.  Art Boca Raton runs through Monday, March 21, 11-6 pm, at the International Pavilion of the Palm Beaches, Research Park at Florida Atlantic University 3450 NW 8th Avenue, Boca Raton.

Two Don’t-Miss Exhibits at Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale

Two Don’t-Miss Exhibits at Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale

By Ronni Sandroff | Mar. 2016  |

“Who is going to buy a nine-foot painting of someone they don’t know?” a gallery owner asked painter Chuck Close at the start of his career.  “Don’t worry,” Close replied, “They’ll all go to museums.”

This story was recounted in an opening night talk by Terrie Sultan, Director of the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY, which originated the “Chuck Close Photography” exhibit that is now at the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale until Oct 2nd.

Grandiose from the start in both the scale of his work and his self-confidence, museums are indeed the perfect venue for Close’s monumental works. The show offers a generous display of Close’s large-scale nudes and portraits taken (sometimes in sections) with a large-scale Polaroid camera. Also included are some innovative daguerreotypes, a 19th-century technique which Close modernized by using banks of strobe lights. The process behind his productions are unveiled through an exhibit of contact sheets, proofs and photographs scored with ink and masking tape.

As Terrie Sultan remarked, “Close’s nudes seem strangely unsensual, yet when he occasionally turns his attention to flowers, the photographs are downright sexy.” Close’s subjects are mostly himself, friends and family, but he also turned his lens to well-known people. The shows includes portraits of Kate Moss, Alec Baldwin, Bill and Hillary Clinton as you’ve never seen them.

A nice relief from Close’s soul-baring close-ups is the Museum of Art’s downstairs exhibit: “Bellissima: Italy and High Fashion 1945-1968 (through June 5th), presented by Bvlgari. It was a great era for fashion, and I wanted all the clothes. Be sure to watch the clips from Italian films of that era, where stunning outfits are worn by women shooting handguns or traipsing through fountains in Fellini films.